Tag Archives: women parliamentarian

In Exile, An Iranian “Lion” Keeps Fighting


The “Lion Woman” of Iran sits outside her 10th floor office atop the main library of the University of Massachusetts-Boston campus, chaffing with frustration as she talks of the turbulence shaking her homeland.

She knows this story all too well: The upwelling of resistance, the retaliatory fist of state power, the fading sense of hope.

“This government is acting like wild animal”, Fatemeh Haghighatjoo says.

After four years of exile, she has lost none of her quiet ferocity or blunt determination. A visiting scholar at UMass, she has led an appeal to the United Nations secretary general to appoint a special envoy to investigate abuses against activists in Iran, and is pushing for the United States to do more as well.

But while she has come to enjoy some of the peaceful pleasures of life here—like curling up with her 6-year old daughter to watch cartoons—she longs to be back in the boiling center of things.

Haghihatjoo was one of the youngest members of the Iranian Parliament when she took on the power structure the underpins the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After a clerical crackdown on reformers, 124 members agreed to resign. And when they considered who among them should be first to speak, all eyes turned to her.

Then as now, determined women like her played a key role in demanding democracy in Iran. And what she said seems remarkably prescient today: “By conducting sham elections, the power-drunk opponents of the popular vote have turned their backs on all the achievements of the revolution. They seek to erase republicanism and freedom from the political face of the country forever”.

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India’s Parliament Elects First Woman Speaker

art_india_kumar_afp_giIndia’s lower house of parliament elected a woman as its speaker Wednesday, a first in the male-dominated chamber’s history.

Meira Kumar is also a member of the “untouchable” Dalit class, the lowest rung in the centuries-old caste system in the country.

The speaker conducts the proceedings of the house. She will preside over 543 elected members, of which 58 are women.

Kumar, 64, was elected to the position unopposed. She was nominated by the ruling Congress party but also had the backing of the alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Women play a prominent role in the politics of India, the world’s largest democracy. The South Asian country of 1.1 billion people has a female president, Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

And four of the country’s political parties, including the Congress Party, are led by women.

Hindus believe there are five main groups of people. The last group is the Dalits. They’re considered impure and are often forced to work in menial jobs. They drink from separate wells and use different entry ways to come and go from buildings.

Dalits number about 250 million in India, about 25 percent of the population, according to the Colorado, U.S.-based Dalit Freedom Network.

India’s constitution outlaws caste-based discrimination, and barriers have broken down in large cities. Prejudice, however, persists in some rural areas of the country.